Monday, 12 February 2007


The potential for confusion between "Victorian" (pertaining to things down south) and "Victorian" (pertaining to things nineteenth-century and British) promises endless amusement. The Victorian Dog Training Academy on Preston Rd, spotted this morning, immediately made me think of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel instructing a row of pups in the proper handling of tea cups and croquet mallets. I'm almost as excited about the prospect of marking my Sydney students' Victorian Literature exam papers in Victoria. What larks!


emmy said...

Beware the Victorian Gynaecologist!

Missing you Lexi.

x e

Karen said...

I hope they don't ransom dogs in Victoria too!

alexis said...

I'll give her a wide berth, Emmy-lou.

alexis said...

Ack! Just realised the possible pun in that sentence. I'm giving the gynecologist a wide BERTH, not a wide BIRTH. I don't even know what a wide birth would be. That's how wide a berth I've given the gynecologist. Eek.

alexis said...

Karen: you probably know this, but Elizabeth Barrett & Mr Browning had a tumultuous correspondence on the subject of her spaniel and her (the spaniel's) dognappers. Bob told Liz that she'd be encouraging them if she kept paying the ransom money; which led Liz to ask Bob what he'd do if SHE were the one being ransomed. It was almost the end of their amours.

Karen said...

I know, but it's nice to be reminded- I love EBB.

alexis said...

Sigh. Ain't she grand? And so I present, for our collective edification, her lyrics to Flush (note especially the excellent second stanza, on the spanieline ears):

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith has run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature!

Like a lady's ringlets brown,
Flow thy silken ears adown
Either side demurely
Of thy silver-suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,
Till the sunshine striking this
Alchemise its dullness,
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold
With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland
Kindling, growing larger,
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curveting,
Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light,
Leap! thy slender feet are bright,
Canopied in fringes;
Leap! those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine
Down their golden inches

Yet, my pretty, sportive friend,
Little is't to such an end
That I praise thy rareness;
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary,
Watched within a curtained room
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning;
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow;
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing;
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears
Or a sigh came double,
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping, --
Which he pushed his nose within,
After, -- platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blither choice
Than such chamber-keeping,
"Come out!" praying from the door, --
Presseth backward as before,
Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
Render praise and favor:
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
Therefore and for ever.

And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men,
Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail,
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee

Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping!
No fly's buzzing wake thee up,
No man break thy purple cup
Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee,
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations!

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? --
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straitly,
Blessing needs must straiten too,
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature;
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature!

Karen said...


I would now post the lines from Aurora Leigh which also make me swoon, but I fear your little blog could not bear the assault.

I hope you found somewhere to paste it from and didn't have to type it all- especially not two-fingered like me!

(Off to procrastinate at- shudder of embarrassment- myspace now, so don't be proud of me yet)

alexis said...

Paste? Moi? But I typed it out from memory of course. (Ahem. Sort of.)

What's at myspace? Send us a link if there's anything linkworthy.

Karen said...

From memory. Of course!

Nothing linkworthy at myspace. You do not want to see me ranting about how much I love bull dog clips and the dead bat on the telegraph wire across the road. Truly.

Must make myself go to bed. Goodnight!

TimT said...

I've got a poem for you. It's by Robert Coleridge Shakespeare, and it's called 'An Ode to Sleep; or, the Perils of Jet Lag.'

Sleep, the baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
Come back, come back! Where the hell did you go?

I trust you plan to give your Victorian lectures in Victorian literature to students while drinking Vittoria coffee ...

alexis said...

The pome's bewdiful, Tim. Give yourself until the end of the week for the time difference to sink in.

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